A reeling Atlanta Braves offense knows it is essentially out of the National League East race, but a three-game series with the Washington Nationals with a ton of potential momentum awaits them this weekend at Turner Field.
The Nationals enter Friday with an 8 1/2-game lead after completing two consecutive sweeps, while the Braves are fresh off getting swept by the MIlwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. With 18 games left in the regular season, the Braves currently hold a 5 1/2-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals for the first Wild Card spot.
Atlanta is also looking to make a statement against their final series with the Nationals, particularly since it is highly likely that the two could meet in the National League Division Series.
"If you gotta win, you gotta win," Jason Heyward said. "You got to beat whoever's across the field from us. It definitely doesn't change anything. We've got to win the baseball game, bottom line."
The Nationals have won 10 of the first 15 games of the season series with their pitchers holding the Braves to a .239 average this season. Though they won't have to contend with Stephen Strasburg, the Braves will still face Ross Detwiler, Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez.
"Whether we face Strasburg or not, they're still a very good team," Heyward said. "Very sound defensively, got good pitching from start to finish, and they've got a good lineup. A tough lineup to pitch against. We've battled them, and I feel like we've gotten better against them gradually as the season has gone on. And we'll try and see what we can do this weekend."
Making matters worse is the fact that the Braves have won just 11 of their last 25 games and have hit .152 with runners in scoring position during that time. They also only managed one RBI over three games against the Brewers. The Braves can take some comfort, however, in that they have already matched last year's September win total when they went 9-18.
The three teams trailing the Braves in the Wild Card – St. Louis, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates – were also swept in three-game series this week, allowing Atlanta to tread water for the time being.
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